By Corinne Murdock |
Both the House Health and Human Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill to ensure that Arizona’s kinship families, extended families caring for children that would otherwise face placement in the foster care system, have the financial means to take care of their children. Kinship families care for 46 percent of the children in the Department of Child Safety (DCS) system, yet receive $75 a month currently if they remain unlicensed while the average foster family receives over $700 a month irrespective of income. HB2274 would raise that amount to $300, appropriating $24.2 million from the state’s general fund next year. Kinship families wouldn’t be required to submit an application to receive their stipend.
State Representative Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) introduced HB2274 in response to Governor Doug Ducey’s declaration to increase foster care family resources in his State of the State address last month. Ducey insisted that kinship families should receive the same help as any other family willing to care for a child.
“It can be better for the child, and often, cheaper for the state because historically, they haven’t been treated as foster families. More than 6,000 children in Arizona live in these homes, all the evidence you need that you can’t put a price tag on love,” said Ducey. “So moving forward, these loving extended family members should have the same resources as any other foster family. We’ll make sure of that this year.”
On Ducey’s point of saving the state money: the governor’s office reported during Wednesday’s House Appropriations meeting that the average cost of congregate care was $150 daily, or $5,000 a month.
Ducey applauded the two committees’ bipartisan passage of HB2274 in a press release, noting that kinship families would further receive a helping hand from the Department of Child Safety (DCS). DCS pledged to review its procedures to expedite kinship caregiver licensing. A change from DCS would enable kinship families to receive as much financial support as other foster families.
Only State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) voted against the bill, in the House Appropriations Committee. State Representative Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) passed on her vote.
The stipend would offset the effects families feel from the current inflation plaguing the Biden Administration.